Editor's note: "Integrity & Trust: Lessons From Watergate and Today" is a Deseret News event featuring legendary journalist Bob Woodward and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter-turned-author Bob Woodward joins Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former law clerk for Judge John J. Sirica, on Jan. 14 for an event in Washington, D.C., discussing his experiences with Watergate.
Woodward has said many notable things throughout his career as a reporter and author.
Quotes on Watergate
"We're not going to have another Watergate in our lifetime. I'm sure."
— From the book "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Watergate: But Were Afraid to Ask" by Brian J. O'Conner and Lori Perkins; and in an article by the Chicago Tribune
"The fact of the Watergate cover-up is not nearly as interesting as the step into making the cover-up. And when you understand the step, you understand that Richard Nixon lied. That he was a criminal."
Woodward speaking about Hugh Sloan, a key witness in the Watergate investigation: “You could tell his conscience was troubled. And so he would answer questions and never throw us out. And his wife Debbie said something that we’ll never forget. She said, ‘This is an honest house.’ And that’s — as a reporter — that’s what you’re looking for.”
"A great lesson of Watergate was if Nixon had apologized early, or even midway through the scandal and demonstrated some soul-searching introspection, he would have been forgiven."
"The biggest rap on me is that I don't find a Watergate every couple of years. Well, in fact, Watergate was unique. It's not something Carl Bernstein, I, or The Washington Post caused. I really need to say to you, the mythologizing of our role in Watergate has gone to the point of absurdity, where journalists write in reviews of this book that I, single-handedly, brought down Richard Nixon. Totally absurd. The Washington Post stories had some part in a chain of events that are described in our book, that were part of a very long and complicated process over many years."
"It was accountability that Nixon feared."
"I believe Watergate shows that the system did work. Particularly the Judiciary and the Congress, and ultimately an independent prosecutor working in the Executive Branch. The failure of the system to deal quickly was attributable to Nixon's lying, stonewalling and refusal to come clean. So it took 26 months for the final truth to be known. Significantly, Nixon's grand mistake was his failure to understand that Americans are forgiving, and if he had admitted error early and apologized to the country, he would have escaped."
"The central dilemma in journalism is that you don't know what you don't know. I suspect there have been a number of conspiracies that never were described or leaked out. But I suspect none of the magnitude and sweep of Watergate."
"Suppose Watergate had not been uncovered? I'd still be on the City Desk, among other things."
"Way before Watergate, senior administration officials hid behind anonymity. But if the information is true, if it can be verified, and if it's really important, the newspaper needs to be willing to take the risk associated with using unidentified sources."
Woodward on his and Carl Bernstein's reporting of Watergate: “We were confident in the method and the sources but not absolutely sure. So, we’re living on a form of thin ice.”
"The sources are not anonymous to me. I know exactly who they are."
"The Senate Watergate committee was the gold standard of congressional investigations. They got testimony from everyone. I mean, it went on for weeks. I mean, the networks stopped doing soap operas and ran the Senate Watergate hearings back to back. So I think that there was a sense that you can go from journalism to government action."
"Watergate is an immensely complicated scandal with a cast of characters as varied as a Tolstoy novel. After Nixon resigned in 1974, he engaged in a very aggressive war with history, attempting to wipe out the Watergate stain and memory. Happily, history has won, largely because of Nixon's tapes. Not a season passes without new disclosures showing his numerous attempts at criminal use of his presidential powers and in fact the scorn he held for the rule of law. At the same time, Nixon had some large achievements in foreign affairs. They will be remembered fondly. But a president probably gets remembered for one thing, and Watergate will head the Nixon list, I suspect."
“Hate was the poison. Hate was what drove him and his presidency. And at that moment he had to leave office, he understood the poison and how hate had destroyed him, had put the country on edge. And if there’s anything to reflect on now, if you look back, as we’ve seen the current presidential election, on the surface and underneath, there is too much contempt, too much hate, and that, if you think about it, we need to know what’s really going on. We don’t know enough. And if we don’t know what’s going on, the judge (Damon J. Keith) who said it got it right: ‘Democracies die in darkness.’ History proves that. And we think we’re resilient. I think we are. We think we’re strong. We think that we have a process that will protect us from that. But if we are infected with hate and infected with a lack of knowledge — who these people really are, what’s inside, what’s driving them — we could partake of losing our wonderful democracy.”
— Bob Woodward speaking at a TEDxMidAtlantic event on Jan. 20, 2017.
"It would seem that the Watergate story from beginning to end could be used as a primer on the American political system."
Quotes on reporting
"It's called 'reporting.' You have information. And you call people up or you go see them and you say, 'I understand the following happened. I want your version. I want more information.'"
"'What are the specifics? What happened when? What was said? What was done? What were the motives?' Those are the building blocks of journalism."
"It's that certain political figures think when you call them and ask them for a comment, you are somehow doing something that you shouldn't be doing. Well, it's absolutely mandatory. It's Journalism 101."
"I have published my phone number, I have gone on the air and announced my telephone number at The Washington Post."
"The great dreaded thing every reporter lives with is what you don't know. The source you didn't go to. The phone call you didn't return. The back of the document you didn't look at. The eternal pursuit. It goes on all of the time."
"There is a garbage culture out there, where we pour garbage on people. And we pour more garbage on people. Then the pollsters run around and take a poll and say, do you smell anything? And of course you smell something. And the job of the reporter is, what are the contents of the garbage? Who's pouring it? And what really happened?"
"There are people out there who take rumors and embellish them in a way that can be devastating. And this pollution has to be eradicated by people in our business as best we can. And things that have no basis need to be called things that have no basis."
"Ultimately I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us."
— PBS interview for "Frontline: Why America Hates the Press" with Bob WoodwardComment on this story
"The whole culture has changed. The internet age. Everything is driven by impatience and speed, and what does that mean? We don’t have that time to really dig into stories."
"A reporter's ability to keep the bond of confidentiality often enables him to learn the hidden or secret aspects of government."
"You have to do stories to get stories."